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CONFIRMED! Toyota is working on a 4x4, load-hauling electric HiLux ute! But what exactly will power this Rivian R1T rival when it eventually arrives?

It looks like a capable 4x4 electric HiLux is some way off - but could a future HiLux EV look like this? (Image: Response.jp)

If you’re hanging out for an electric Toyota HiLux ute that has genuine off-road capability, can tow a boat, has sufficient payload AND range of up to 800km, then we have some good news.

Well, sort of…

The Japanese giant is working on zero-emissions versions of its most popular model in Australia, but there’s a catch.

A CO2-free HiLux is years away from being a production reality, and it might not end up being a battery electric vehicle (BEV).

Ahead of a brand immersion event for its local staff and dealers, Toyota Australia invited Australian media to a sneak peak of its upcoming new models, including big off-roaders like the next-gen Prado SUV and Tundra pick-up, as well as more efficient metal like the upcoming bZ4X EV and the C-HR hybrid crossover.

It also marked the Australian debut of its HiLux Revo BEV concept that was revealed in December last year at a celebration of the 60th anniversary of Toyota’s operations in Thailand.

Toyota Australia Vice President Sales, Marketing and Franchise Operations Sean Hanley said the carmaker was so interested in such a model that local engineers were evaluating it now.

“What I can't tell you is when, or even if this car might come to Australia as a production model,” he said.

“But what I can tell you is that we are optimistic, and we’d definitely pursue the opportunity to bring such a vehicle to our market in the future should it become available. So much so that our local evaluation engineers have already been putting this very vehicle through its paces, and they're impressed.”

The tech specs for the Revo are still under wraps, but Hanley said it was more geared towards the Thai market as a “short-range, city-focused BEV”. It is a two-wheel-drive model and is expected to have a range similar to that of a 2WD bZ4X, so around 440km (WLTP).

Highlighting the limited range and capabilities of the Revo, Hanley added: “Given the enormous challenges we face in electrifying commercial vehicles, it seems to make sense that we start with an electric ute for the on-road market.”

Of course, this won’t satisfy the large number of Australians that use a one-tonne ute to tow heavy things, and to go off-roading. And that’s when Hanley got a little more animated.

“Of course what I'm really hanging out for is exactly the same thing that everybody's asking the question about, and that is a load-carrying, trailer-towing, remote area off-road HiLux four by four with zero tailpipe emissions. What a vehicle that would be. And it’s possible. But imagine the size, weight and charging time of the battery pack that you need to do all that and achieve 800 kilometres of range.

“Rest assured Toyota is working on it. Of course our breakthrough work on solid state batteries might come to the fore. And maybe, just maybe, there's another solution. Perhaps this is where hydrogen fuel cells could come into their own. Not surprisingly, Toyota has been working in that space too for years.”

Looking more long term, Hanley highlighted the work his colleagues at Toyota UK are doing by developing a hydrogen-powered Hilux prototype using the company’s latest second-generation fuel-cell technology.

“And it wouldn't surprise me if it became a vehicle that bridges that gap between today's realities and tomorrow's technological requirements.

“The first prototype vehicles are being produced this year with a view to preparing a small series production. And it's made possible by the willingness of Toyota to invest in more than one technology.”

Without naming names, Hanley also pointed out the inadequacies of some electric utes that are incapable of doing what a lot of buyers want.

"Honestly, who's going to buy something that wants to go off road and tow and have 800km [of range], if it’s going to be $100,000 and doesn’t do half? So therefore, that's our goal to get there."

The only electric ute that's currently available in Australia is the wheel drive LDV eT60 that costs $92,990 before on-road costs and has a driving range of up to 330km.

He added that this is where hydrogen fuel-cell and hydrogen-powered ICE cars will play a part, although he said the latter is unlikely to be mainstream until 2030 to 2035 given the lack of infrastructure.

"But that's where I believe hydrogen and fuel cells come into their own, it provides great range, providing it’s green hydrogen it's totally carbon neutral, and it can tow. And it can handle the big heavy stuff. And I think that's the journey we're on. But you know, there'll be a role for BEVs. we're seeing it now, we're seeing in the market.

"I mean, let's be frank, it’s happening, but it's a while yet before I think we are going to have the full capability in Australia, of an affordable, practical solution for the customers that use the cars the way they use them in Australia."